C. Baltay

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States

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Publications (639)1096.87 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present optical imaging and spectroscopy of supernova (SN) LSQ13fn, a type II supernova with several hitherto-unseen properties. Although it initially showed strong symmetric spectral emission features attributable to \ion{He}{ii}, \ion{N}{iii}, and \ion{C}{iii}, reminiscent of some interacting SNe, it transitioned into an object that would fall more naturally under a type II-Plateau (IIP) classification. However, its spectral evolution revealed several unusual properties: metal lines appeared later than expected, were weak, and some species were conspicuous by their absence. Furthermore, the line velocities were found to be lower than expected given the plateau brightness, breaking the SNe~IIP standardised candle method for distance estimates. We found that, in combination with a short phase of early-time ejecta-circumstellar material interaction, metal-poor ejecta, and a large progenitor radius could reasonably account for the observed behaviour. Comparisons with synthetic model spectra of SNe~IIP of a given progenitor mass would imply a progenitor star metallicity as low as 0.1\,Z$_{\odot}$. LSQ13fn highlights the diversity of SNe~II and the many competing physical effects that come into play towards the final stages of massive star evolution immediately preceding core-collapse.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: We introduce a method for identifying "twin" Type Ia supernovae, and using them to improve distance measurements. This novel approach to Type Ia supernova standardization is made possible by spectrophotometric time series observations from the Nearby Supernova Factory (SNfactory). We begin with a well-measured set of supernovae, find pairs whose spectra match well across the entire optical window, and then test whether this leads to a smaller dispersion in their absolute brightnesses. This analysis is completed in a blinded fashion, ensuring that decisions made in implementing the method do not inadvertently bias the result. We find that pairs of supernovae with more closely matched spectra indeed have reduced brightness dispersion. We are able to standardize this initial set of SNfactory supernovae to 0.083 +/- 0.012 magnitudes, implying a dispersion of 0.072 +/- 0.010 magnitudes in the absence of peculiar velocities. We estimate that with larger numbers of comparison SNe, e.g, using the final SNfactory spectrophotometric dataset as a reference, this method will be capable of standardizing high-redshift supernovae to within 0.06-0.07 magnitudes. These results imply that at least 3/4 of the variance in Hubble residuals in current supernova cosmology analyses is due to previously unaccounted-for astrophysical differences among the supernovae
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: The La Silla/QUEST Variability Survey (LSQ) and the Carnegie Supernova Project (CSP II) are collaborating to discover and obtain photometric light curves for a large sample of low-redshift (z < 0.1) Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia). The supernovae are discovered in the LSQ survey using the 1 m ESO Schmidt telescope at the La Silla Observatory with the 10 square degree QUEST camera. The follow-up photometric observations are carried out using the 1 m Swope telescope and the 2.5 m du Pont telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory. This paper describes the survey, discusses the methods of analyzing the data, and presents the light curves for the first 31 SNe Ia obtained in the survey. The SALT 2.4 supernova light-curve fitter was used to analyze the photometric data, and the Hubble diagram for this first sample is presented. The measurement errors for these supernovae averaged 4%, and their intrinsic spread was 14%. © 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

  • No preview · Article · Jun 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present data for LSQ14bdq, a hydrogen-poor super-luminous supernova (SLSN) discovered by the La Silla QUEST survey and classified by the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects. The spectrum and light curve are very similar to slow-declining SLSNe such as PTF12dam. However, detections within $\sim1$ day after explosion show a bright and relatively fast initial peak, lasting for $\sim15$ days, prior to the usual slow rise to maximum light. The broader, main peak can be fit with either central engine or circumstellar interaction models. We discuss the implications of the precursor peak in the context of these models. It is too bright and narrow to be explained as a normal \Ni-powered SN, and we suggest that interaction models may struggle to fit the precursor and main peak simultaneously. We propose that the initial peak is from the post-shock cooling of an extended stellar envelope, and reheating by a central engine drives the second peak. In this picture, we show that an explosion energy of $\sim2\times10^{52}$\,erg and a progenitor radius of a few hundred solar radii are required to power the early emission. The two competing engine models involve rapidly spinning magnetars (neutron stars) or fall-back accretion onto a central black hole. The prompt energy required may favour the black hole scenario. The remarkably bright initial peak effectively rules out a compact Wolf-Rayet star as a progenitor, since the inferred energies and ejected masses become unphysical.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015
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    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: We assemble a sample of 24 hydrogen-poor superluminous supernovae (SLSNe). Parameterizing the light-curve shape through rise and decline time-scales shows that the two are highly correlated. Magnetar-powered models can reproduce the correlation, with the diversity in rise and decline rates driven by the diffusion time-scale. Circumstellar interaction models can exhibit a similar rise–decline relation, but only for a narrow range of densities, which may be problematic for these models. We find that SLSNe are approximately 3.5 mag brighter and have light curves three times broader than SNe Ibc, but that the intrinsic shapes are similar. There are a number of SLSNe with particularly broad light curves, possibly indicating two progenitor channels, but statistical tests do not cleanly separate two populations. The general spectral evolution is also presented. Velocities measured from Fe ii are similar for SLSNe and SNe Ibc, suggesting that diffusion time differences are dominated by mass or opacity. Flat velocity evolution in most SLSNe suggests a dense shell of ejecta. If opacities in SLSNe are similar to other SNe Ibc, the average ejected mass is higher by a factor 2–3. Assuming κ = 0.1 cm2 g−1, we estimate a mean (median) SLSN ejecta mass of 10 M⊙ (6 M⊙), with a range of 3–30 M⊙. Doubling the assumed opacity brings the masses closer to normal SNe Ibc, but with a high-mass tail. The most probable mechanism for generating SLSNe seems to be the core collapse of a very massive hydrogen-poor star, forming a millisecond magnetar.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We report on our findings based on the analysis of observations of the Type II-L supernova LSQ13cuw within the framework of currently-accepted physical predictions of core-collapse supernova explosions. LSQ13cuw was discovered within a day of explosion, which is hitherto unprecedented for Type II-L supernovae. This motivated a comparative study of Type II-P and II-L supernovae with relatively well-constrained explosion epochs and rise times to maximium (optical) light. From our sample of 19 such events, we find evidence of a positive correlation between the duration of the rise and the peak brightness. On average, SNe II-L tend to have brighter peak magnitudes and longer rise times than SNe II-P. However, this difference is clearest only at the extreme ends of the rise-time versus peak brightness relation. Using two different analytical models, we performed a parameter study to investigate the physical parameters that control the rise-time behaviour. In general, the models qualitatively reproduce aspects of the observed trends. We find that the brightness of the optical peak increases for larger progenitor radii and explosion energies, and decreases for larger masses. The dependence of the rise time on mass and explosion energy is small compared to the dependence on the progenitor radius. We find no evidence that the progenitors of SNe II-L have significantly smaller radii than those of SNe II-P.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical observations of the peculiar stripped-envelope supernovae (SNe) LSQ12btw and LSQ13ccw discovered by the La Silla-QUEST survey. LSQ12btw reaches an absolute peak magnitude of M(g) = -19.3 +- 0.2, and shows an asymmetric light curve. Stringent prediscovery limits constrain its rise time to maximum light to less than 4 days, with a slower post-peak luminosity decline, similar to that experienced by the prototypical SN~Ibn 2006jc. LSQ13ccw is somewhat different: while it also exhibits a very fast rise to maximum, it reaches a fainter absolute peak magnitude (M(g) = -18.4 +- 0.2), and experiences an extremely rapid post-peak decline similar to that observed in the peculiar SN~Ib 2002bj. A stringent prediscovery limit and an early marginal detection of LSQ13ccw allow us to determine the explosion time with an uncertainty of 1 day. The spectra of LSQ12btw show the typical narrow He~I emission lines characterising Type Ibn SNe, suggesting that the SN ejecta are interacting with He-rich circumstellar material. The He I lines in the spectra of LSQ13ccw exhibit weak narrow emissions superposed on broad components. An unresolved Halpha line is also detected, suggesting a tentative Type Ibn/IIn classification. As for other SNe~Ibn, we argue that LSQ12btw and LSQ13ccw likely result from the explosions of Wolf-Rayet stars that experienced instability phases prior to core collapse. We inspect the host galaxies of SNe Ibn, and we show that all of them but one are hosted in spiral galaxies, likely in environments spanning a wide metallicity range.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Previously we used the Nearby Supernova Factory sample to show that SNe~Ia having locally star-forming environments are dimmer than SNe~Ia having locally passive environments.Here we use the \constitution\ sample together with host galaxy data from \GALEX\ to independently confirm that result. The effect is seen using both the SALT2 and MLCS2k2 lightcurve fitting and standardization methods, with brightness differences of $0.094 \pm 0.037\ \mathrm{mag}$ for SALT2 and $0.155 \pm 0.041\ \mathrm{mag}$ for MLCS2k2 with $R_V=2.5$. When combined with our previous measurement the effect is $0.094 \pm 0.025\ \mathrm{mag}$ for SALT2. If the ratio of these local SN~Ia environments changes with redshift or sample selection, this can lead to a bias in cosmological measurements. We explore this issue further, using as an example the direct measurement of $H_0$. \GALEX{} observations show that the SNe~Ia having standardized absolute magnitudes calibrated via the Cepheid period--luminosity relation using {\textit{HST}} originate in predominately star-forming environments, whereas only ~50% of the Hubble-flow comparison sample have locally star-forming environments. As a consequence, the $H_0$ measurement using SNe~Ia is currently overestimated. Correcting for this bias, we find a value of $H_0^{corr}=70.6\pm 2.6\ \mathrm{km\ s^{-1}\ Mpc^{-1}}$ when using the LMC distance, Milky Way parallaxes and the NGC~4258 megamaser as the Cepheid zeropoint, and $68.8\pm 3.3\ \mathrm{km\ s^{-1}\ Mpc^{-1}}$ when only using NGC~4258. Our correction brings the direct measurement of $H_0$ within $\sim 1\,\sigma$ of recent indirect measurements based on the CMB power spectrum.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We estimate systematic errors due to K-corrections in standard photometric analyses of high redshift Type Ia supernovae. Errors due to K-correction occur when the spectral template model underlying the lightcurve fitter poorly represents the actual supernova spectral energy distribution, meaning that the distance modulus cannot be recovered accurately. In order to quantify this effect, synthetic photometry is performed on artificially redshifted spectrophotometric data from 119 low-redshift supernovae from the Nearby Supernova Factory, and the resulting lightcurves are fit with a conventional lightcurve fitter. We measure the variation in the standardized magnitude that would be fit for a given supernova if located at a range of redshifts and observed with various filter sets corresponding to current and future supernova surveys. We find significant variation in the measurements of the same supernovae placed at different redshifts regardless of filters used, which causes dispersion greater than $\sim0.05$ mag for measurements of photometry using the Sloan-like filters and a bias that corresponds to a $0.03$ shift in $w$ when applied to an outside data set. To test the result of a shift in supernova population or environment at higher redshifts, we repeat our calculations with the addition of a reweighting of the supernovae as a function of redshift and find that this strongly affects the results and would have repercussions for cosmology. We discuss possible methods to reduce the contribution of the K-correction bias and uncertainty.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: We develop a new framework for use in exploring Type Ia Supernova (SN Ia) spectra. Combining Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Partial Least Square analysis (PLS) we are able to establish correlations between the Principal Components (PCs) and spectroscopic/photometric SNe Ia features. The technique was applied to ~120 supernova and ~800 spectra from the Nearby Supernova Factory. The ability of PCA to group together SNe Ia with similar spectral features, already explored in previous studies, is greatly enhanced by two important modifications: (1) the initial data matrix is built using derivatives of spectra over the wavelength, which increases the weight of weak lines and discards extinction, and (2) we extract time evolution information through the use of entire spectral sequences concatenated in each line of the input data matrix. These allow us to define a stable PC parameter space which can be used to characterize synthetic SN Ia spectra by means of real SN features. Using PLS, we demonstrate that the information from important previously known spectral indicators (namely the pseudo-equivalent width (pEW) of Si II 5972 / Si II 6355 and the line velocity of S II 5640 / Si II 6355) at a given epoch, is contained within the PC space and can be determined through a linear combination of the most important PCs. We also show that the PC space encompasses photometric features like B or V magnitudes, B-V color and SALT2 parameters c and x1. The observed colors and magnitudes, that are heavily affected by extinction, cannot be reconstructed using this technique alone. All the above mentioned applications allowed us to construct a metric space for comparing synthetic SN Ia spectra with observations.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the early, rising light curves of 18 Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory and the La Silla-QUEST variability survey. We fit these early data flux using a simple power law (f(t) = α × tn) to determine the time of first light (t0), and hence the rise time (trise) from first light to peak luminosity, and the exponent of the power-law rise (n). We find a mean uncorrected rise time of 18.98 ± 0.54 d, with individual supernova (SN) rise times ranging from 15.98 to 24.7 d. The exponent n shows significant departures from the simple ‘fireball model’ of n = 2 (or f(t) ∝ t2) usually assumed in the literature. With a mean value of n = 2.44 ± 0.13, our data also show significant diversity from event to event. This deviation has implications for the distribution of 56Ni throughout the SN ejecta, with a higher index suggesting a lesser degree of 56Ni mixing. The range of n found also confirms that the 56Ni distribution is not standard throughout the population of SNe Ia, in agreement with earlier work measuring such abundances through spectral modelling. We also show that the duration of the very early light curve, before the luminosity has reached half of its maximal value, does not correlate with the light-curve shape or stretch used to standardize SNe Ia in cosmological applications. This has implications for the cosmological fitting of SN Ia light curves.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The Public European Southern Observatory Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO) began as a public spectroscopic survey in April 2012. We describe the data reduction strategy and data products which are publicly available through the ESO archive as the Spectroscopic Survey Data Release 1 (SSDR1). PESSTO uses the New Technology Telescope with EFOSC2 and SOFI to provide optical and NIR spectroscopy and imaging. We target supernovae and optical transients brighter than 20.5mag for classification. Science targets are then selected for follow-up based on the PESSTO science goal of extending knowledge of the extremes of the supernova population. The EFOSC2 spectra cover 3345-9995A (at resolutions of 13-18 Angs) and SOFI spectra cover 0.935-2.53 micron (resolutions 23-33 Angs) along with JHK imaging. This data release contains spectra from the first year (April 2012 - 2013), consisting of all 814 EFOSC2 spectra and 95 SOFI spectra (covering 298 distinct objects), in standard ESO Phase 3 format. We estimate the accuracy of the absolute flux calibrations for EFOSC2 to be typically 15%, and the relative flux calibration accuracy to be about 5%. The PESSTO standard NIR reduction process does not yet produce high accuracy absolute spectrophotometry but the SOFI JHK imaging will improve this. Future data releases will focus on improving the automated flux calibration of the data products.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014
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    Charles Baltay
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    ABSTRACT: The recent discovery by Riess et al.1 and Perlmutter et al.2 that the expansion of the universe is accelerating is one of the most significant discoveries in cosmology in the last few decades. To explain this acceleration a mysterious new component of the universe, dark energy, was hypothesized. Using general relativity (GR), the measured rate of acceleration translates to the present understanding that the baryonic matter, of which the familiar world is made of, is a mere 4% of the total mass-energy of the universe, with nonbaryonic dark matter making up 24% and dark energy making up the majority 72%. Dark matter, by definition, has attractive gravity, and even though we presently do not know what it is, it could be made of the next heavy particles discovered by particle physicists. Dark energy, however, is much more mysterious, in that even though we do not know what it is, it must have some kind of repulsive gravity and negative pressure, very unusual properties that are not part of the present understanding of physics. Investigating the nature of dark energy is therefore one of the most important areas of cosmology. In this review, the cosmology of an expanding universe, based on GR, is discussed. The methods of studying the acceleration of the universe, and the nature of dark energy, are presented. A large amount of experimentation on this topic has taken place in the decade since the discovery of the acceleration. These are discussed and the present state of knowledge of the cosmological parameters is summarized in Table 7 below. A vigorous program to further these studies is under way. These are presented and the expected results are summarized in Table 10 below. The hope is that at the end of this program, it would be possible to tell whether dark energy is due to Einstein's cosmological constant or is some other new constituent of the universe, or alternately the apparent acceleration is due to some modification of GR.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2014 · International Journal of Modern Physics D
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical spectra and light curves for three hydrogen-poor super-luminous supernovae followed by the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO). Time series spectroscopy from a few days after maximum light to 100 days later shows them to be fairly typical of this class, with spectra dominated by Ca II, Mg II, Fe II and Si II, which evolve slowly over most of the post-peak photospheric phase. We determine bolometric light curves and apply simple fitting tools, based on the diffusion of energy input by magnetar spin-down, \Ni decay, and collision of the ejecta with an opaque circumstellar shell. We investigate how the heterogeneous light curves of our sample (combined with others from the literature) can help to constrain the possible mechanisms behind these events. We have followed these events to beyond 100-200 days after peak, to disentangle host galaxy light from fading supernova flux and to differentiate between the models, which predict diverse behaviour at this phase. Models powered by radioactivity require unrealistic parameters to reproduce the observed light curves, as found by previous studies. Both magnetar heating and circumstellar interaction still appear to be viable candidates. A large diversity in the luminosity in the tail phases is emerging with magnetar models failing in some cases to predict the rapid drop in flux. This would suggest either that magnetars are not responsible, or that the X-ray flux from the magnetar wind is not fully trapped. The light curve of one object shows a distinct re-brightening at around 100d after maximum light. We argue that this could result either from multiple shells of circumstellar material, or from a magnetar ionisation front breaking out of the ejecta.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present photospheric-phase observations of LSQ12gdj, a slowly declining, UV-bright Type Ia supernova. Classified well before maximum light, LSQ12gdj has extinction-corrected absolute magnitude MB = −19.8, and pre-maximum spectroscopic evolution similar to SN 1991T and the super-Chandrasekhar-mass SN 2007if. We use ultraviolet photometry from Swift, ground-based optical photometry, and corrections from a near-infrared photometric template to construct the bolometric (1600–23 800 Å) light curve out to 45 d past B-band maximum light. We estimate that LSQ12gdj produced 0.96 ± 0.07 M⊙ of 56Ni, with an ejected mass near or slightly above the Chandrasekhar mass. As much as 27 per cent of the flux at the earliest observed phases, and 17 per cent at maximum light, is emitted bluewards of 3300 Å. The absence of excess luminosity at late times, the cutoff of the spectral energy distribution bluewards of 3000 Å and the absence of narrow line emission and strong Na i D absorption all argue against a significant contribution from ongoing shock interaction. However, ∼10 per cent of LSQ12gdj's luminosity near maximum light could be produced by the release of trapped radiation, including kinetic energy thermalized during a brief interaction with a compact, hydrogen-poor envelope (radius <1013 cm) shortly after explosion; such an envelope arises generically in double-degenerate merger scenarios.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract available on the publisher website.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014
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Publication Stats

4k Citations
1,096.87 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1996-2015
    • Yale University
      • Department of Physics
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
    • Adelphi University
      غاردين سيتي، نيويورك, New York, United States
  • 2010
    • Paris Diderot University
      • Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et Hautes Energies (LPNHE) UMR 7585
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 1999-2009
    • Indiana University Bloomington
      • • Department of Physics
      • • Department of Astronomy
      Bloomington, IN, United States
  • 2008
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
      • Physics Division
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 1996-2003
    • Boston University
      • Department of Physics
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1998-2002
    • Nagoya University
      Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
  • 2001
    • The Ohio State University
      • Department of Astronomy
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
    • Aomori University
      Aomori, Aomori Prefecture, Japan
  • 2000
    • Stanford University
      • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 1994-1999
    • Università di Pisa
      Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
  • 1965-1991
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Physics
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1990
    • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
      • Department of Physics
      New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States